This Monday I had an opportunity to visit another farm. I was doing double duty as a writer covering the event and a farmer hoping to learn from it. Yer Vang is a Hmong immigrant from Laos. She has been farming 7 acres in Dakota county for over 4 years. This year she is taking part in a “cabbage project” a study about alternative methods of pest control on cabbage. This is why she was hosting an open house.
For me though the highlight of the day was the food. Served under simple canopy on the edge of the woods surrounding her field the simple fare tasted like a feast. Vang had set up a little shack for the occasional over night gardening and to provide shelter during the day. She and her sisters arrived early the morning we were all set to arrive. They harvested and prepared it the same day over an open fire at the edge of the field. There was steamed squash and green beans, Stir-fried mustard greens, Hot chile sauce, sliced cucumber and my children’s favorite, sliced watermelon.
After a grace said in the language I didn’t understand we all dug in. The atmosphere was perfect. The kids were dirty from playing in the woods before the meal but no one really cared.
Afterwards I decided to purchase a watermelon. I am not sure what variety it was nice something was lost in translation but it was fabulous. I asked if I could save the seeds and she said yes, so next year I will grow watermelon I do not know the name of. Obviously good, fresh food spans many cultures.
Now that harvesting is winding down and days are cooler I am really enjoying cooking up fall’s bounty. During the busy harvesting season we ended up eating out way too much. Mostly because after a busy day harvesting and canning and with a kitchen still a mess the last thing I wan’t to do was make some big complicated meal. But now I finally had to call it quits canning. There is only so much you can do and at least if we run out there is always a store to tide us over till next year. I had to laugh that we were canning to save ourselves money and eat healthier then we were eating out a couple times a week.
Now I am trying my best to reclaim my role in the kitchen and at the table. With all of us coming down with something I realize it is even more important to eat healthy, wholesome food.
This morning I made “Three Sisters Stew.” It was originally named for the squash, beans and corn in the dish that was traditionally grown in a configuration known as “three sisters.” We had to rename it however since it caused some confusion with Avril who thought we were eating, “two girls.”
Anyway it is a great traditional dish. And I told Proeun this batch was particularly special because other then the spices and onions we grew everything in the dish–squash, beans, corn and tomatoes. Here’s the recipe.
Three Sisters Stew
1 cup dried beans
3 cups water
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
2-3 cloves garlic
2-3 cups winter squash cut in chunks
14 oz or 1 pint canned tomatoes
1 Tbsp chile powder
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn.
Cook the beans, I like to put them in a crock pot on high for 6-8 hours.
In large pot quickly dry roast oregano and cumin and cinnamon for about 30 seconds. Add oil, onion, salt and garlic; saute until onions are soft. Add squash, tomatoes and chile powder and cook about 20 minutes until squash is soft. Add some water if mixture seems dry. Add cooked beans and corn, simmer until corn is tender.
From Mothering magazine, Sept/oct. 2006
Mentally I am just about done with tomatoes. i can’t imagine living in a part of the country that doesn’t have seasons. They just seem like such a welcome change to all that it happening. Almost from the beginning of the summer I was ready for winter and here it comes. Harvests are winding down and while I could always do some more canning I am done with that too.
I am on to planning for homeschool, knitting, reading, journaling and quiet evenings at home finishing up our garden out back and cleaning the house for winter. Cleaning out all the dust and grime that have been tracked in and blown in through the windows. Fall has always been my favorite time of year,. This year is no different.
To help with my cleaning I bought a bunch of Norwex cloths at a product party my aunt had. I loved them so much I decided to have a party. They seem to fit right into the lifestyle Proeun and I are working to build. The cloths have a really tight weave and actually have silver woven through them which makes them antibacterial. I bought some for my kitchen and love clean counters and tables. I bought some travel size for my purse and a multi colored baby pack. None of the products have any chemicals in them and you can actually use them to clean chemical free. I had been using Melaleuca for years but this is really easy. Moms are so funny when our new toys are cleaning supplies.
When I was younger I took gymnastics. It didn’t come easily for me and I soon lost interest. The balance beam was particularly hard for me. Now as a mother of 3 little ones I find balancing hasn’t gotten any easier. I have these grand ideas of the life I would like our family to live. A simple life is at the top of my list. But simple isn’t turning out to be that simple.
This year we began a new adventure as a family–farming. It has taken much more time then we originally had anticipated. But it has also been more rewarding. I remember the time when I was writing but couldn’t bring myself to say, “I am a writer.” This summer we made the transition from farming to farmers. Even though the change is mostly in our head it is significant. The change coincided roughly with the harvest time. When we went from growing food to producing food.
It has been such a busy time. We are trying to figure out how to estimate how much our field will produce and how much we have time to harvest. It has been a continual balancing act trying to push limits of our field, markets and ability. Added to that I have been trying to process our extra tomatoes and put a little something extra by for winter. Plus I have continued my other part time job as writer. The season is short and soon tomatoes will be done as well as our money making opportunity (little that it is).
If it sounds like I have too much on my plate you would be right. Yes we spend the day together farming and taking care of the house, but I have definitely not been the mother I want to be. This year Two turned 5; this means Kindergarten. We are planning to homeschool but so far our lessons remain agriculturally focused. Next week we are going to try out a 4H club.
But every day I find it harder and harder to keep my focus. I get worn down by all the business, wondering what could possibly be cut out and then cut it out only to find the next day I need more balance. So far I have found the only thing I cannot afford to sacrifice is the children, while I know that logically I realize they have borne the brunt of my frustrations. When it gets to the end of the day and I accomplished a lot but the children watched TV all day what did I really accomplish? I have decided I ( and the children) need frequent recentering days. This is one of them. Striving for a simple life is not easy.